TRAVEL TRADE TALK with nepaltraveller.com

  •   2018-01-02       nepaltraveller.com

Left: Sunil Shakya, Middle: Binayak Shah, Right: Shradha Shrestha

Tourism resolutions for the New Year and looking back at 2017

Travel Trade Talk (TTT) is a monthly breakfast meet to discuss challenges, solutions, and opportunities for Nepal’s tourism industry organised by nepaltraveller.com at Le Sherpa restaurant.Hosted and moderated by the CEO of nepaltraveller.com the aim of TTT is to invite and interact with key stakeholders in the industry who can share their insights and suggest and highlight important issues and the way forward for the industry. Along with promoting Destination Nepal, we at nepaltraveller.com believe that it is important to promote greater commitment and cooperation in the travel trade fraternity and dialogue between all key stakeholder to work together to ensure a better tourism product for visitors to Nepal.


The TTT held recently featured the following tourism experts:

Binayak Shah, Secretary General of Hotel Association of Nepal and the owner of Airport Hotel. He has been involved in the hospitality sector for over two decades.

Sunil Shakya, President of PATA Nepal Chapter and Chairman of KGH Group of hotels.

Shraddha Shrestha, Manager Brand Development, and Corporate Partnership


Wrapping up 2017

Binayak Shah: When you look at the figures, 9,00,000 plus in 2017 has been a historic year. After 19 years of setting the goal, we have finally completed it and I feel this is quite an achievement. From the 10 years long civil war, series of strikes and movements we have finally conducted three successful elections and this transformation has to be highlighted internationally. With a stable government, we can now focus on the economic agendas that we couldn’t do before.

Sunil Shakya: Achieving one million tourists in 2017 has been a landmark for our tourism industry. With the recent political stability, the upcoming years should be more fruitful.On PATA’s font, we organised a major event: HTM (Himalayan Travel Mart) coupled with the Bloggers conference and we plan to upscale it to better buyers in the future.

Shradha Shrestha: 2017 has been one of the best years for our industry as we crossed 1 million tourists this year. We also a rise in domestic tourism. With ‘Ghum Fir Barsa’ we have had 40 lakh tourists travelling internally with 60,000 travelling to Rara alone despite the state of infrastructure there. This rise in tourism wouldn’t have been successful without the efforts of the private sector as they are an important part of Nepal’s tourism.

Tourism had been one of the main agendas for political parties in the 2017 elections so we believe that the new government will formulate effective policies for the development of tourism. We have received a very positive review from all the international market and almost all the places we visited gave a positive response.

In the past six years, we have had meetings with international donors like the World Bank and the European Union. These organisations have shown interests to invest in the tourism sector of the country.

NTB is been working with the Chinese government and we also believe that an MOU will be signed between the two governments. The Chinese government is very keen on sending 2 -3 lakh Chinese to Nepal. For that, the embassy and the CNTO (Chinese National Tourism Organisation) have already started the preparation. CNTO has also already started the second batch of Chinese language classes in our office.


Resolutions for 2018 and beyond

Binayak Shah: For 2018 and the years ahead we have to focus on a few important sectors. Development of infrastructure is the most important one. This year’s elections have given us a majority government, and because of that, the world is watching us. Now, all we need is a big event that can gasp attention in the international tourism market. For that to succeed, these next few years should be dedicated to the development of infrastructure. The priority should be given to the international airport. Our only international airport is very congested. Although it is not possible overnight, we need to start making small changes to the airport like working on the cleanliness of the airport or expanding the congested baggage claim areas.

Secondly, the roads and highways need to be properly. The lifeline of Nepali economy, the Muglin-Narayanghat highway is in a pitiful state. It took me 10 hours to reach Kathmandu from Narayanghat. Due to its pathetic condition, millions invested in Chitwan has been completely wasted and the resources we have has been underutilized. For the sake of our economy, the new government needs to make this their top priority. In addition, the road connection between India and Nepal, and Nepal and China are of paramount importance to the tourism industry. The border checkpoints where the immigration processes are done are not updated according to the present needs. These are only suitable for the transport of goods, which were last updated 50 years ago and don’t even have the proper equipment for proper documentation.

Another important area that we need to focus is Lumbini. It is one of few places with very high tourism prospects. However, we have not portrayed Lumbini as the highlight of Nepali tourism, we haven’t been able to utilise of the fact that Lumbini is a national heritage. It is not a surprise that we get a huge number of tourists visiting Lumbini from developed countries like China, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka but most of them come through India with an Indian guide and are rarely documented. In extreme cases, they are not even aware that Lumbini is a part of Nepal.

Digital Marketing is something that Nepali tourism industry should work on. Although posters and pamphlets are important, we live in an age of digital consumerism so we need to expand digitally in the form of apps, travel websites etc.

Nepal has recently adopted federalism by welcoming seven provinces. Each province should welcome tourism by highlighting the unique peculiarities they have rather than highlighting the same activity. For instance, if we could introduce province 5 by highlighting Lumbini and province 2 by Janakpur, then we can promote all the states equally without any competition. We have entered a new era so we need a mega promotional event that can captivate the attention of the international market, travel agencies and visitors.

Domestic tourism is another area that we need to focus on. Although we introduced ‘Ghum Fir Barsa 2073’, nothing much happened in that sector. We know that some Nepalis can spend more than international tourists, still haven’t utilized it.  If we focus on domestic tourism with a clear vision with the participation of organisations like Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Tour Travel Agents (NATTA), Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) we can do much more in this sector.

The widebody aircraft that will be added by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) and by the end of 2018 they will have expanded their flights to Europe, Japan, Korea and many more destinations. If done properly, we can get a lot of high-end tourist from these places.

As I mentioned before, India and China should be our main focus. Nepal is one of the destinations where Indian civil servants can utilize their LTA (Leave Travel Allowances) but we still haven’t been able to translate this officially. If we can develop some official arrangement for these Indian visitors, then we can increase the number of high-end tourists in Nepal.


Sunil Shakya: Attaining 5 million tourists for 2030 is not a problem, especially when we have both demand and interests from all sectors. To achieve this, we need to be very vigilant and proactive for the development of infrastructures and work together intensively.

According to PATA’s intelligence, the major tourism approach for Nepal should be short-haul tourism rather than long haul. Long haul tourism might be our butter, but short haul is our bread. So our main strategy should be focusing on our two developing neighbours. China, in particular, has 30 million people going out in spring alone and Indian tourists are one of the highest spenders. As one of our biggest market, we have 42 flights (now expanding to 62) every week to China and our flights go to six destinations within the country. With NAC’s new wide-body aircraft, they are going to expand destinations and that’s going to increase tourist numbers.

We hope that the new majority government will provide stability for at least five years. We expect the new government to complete a lot of stalling project like the international airport in Pokhara and shift its attention towards the infrastructural development of the country. Nepal cannot afford to have only one international airport. The recent Turkish Airlines mishap lost us 6 days and millions of rupees and Nepal cannot manage to lose that much again. The second international airport has to be there in the next 6 to 7 years. Likewise, the fast track road and railway need to come fast. The two international airports are already coming up in Pokhara and Lumbini and we need to make sure they are completed on time. This is where we should mobilise the army to avoid unnecessary politics.

The vision for 5 million tourists by 2020 should be taken as a national campaign. We need a big event to highlight our tourism market. On PATA’s font, we organised a major event: HTM (Himalayan Travel Mart) coupled with the Bloggers conference and we plan to upscale it to better buyers in the future.

We need to work on is the next generation in the hospitality sector. We should work with the hotel management, handicrafts, taxi drivers, tourist guides to develop the sector. In November, when hotels had 90 % occupancy there was a shortfall of Chinese speaking guides. So we should start developing guides who can speak different languages and this can be incorporated into the new curriculum.

 

Shradha Shrestha: For 2018 we will soon be coming up with new private sector friendly marketing strategy. Along with the marketing strategy, we will also be coming up with the branding and sub-branding strategy for the different provinces with support from PATA headquarters and World Bank. We aim to pick unique characteristics from each province and sub-brand them accordingly.

The main challenges we face are the regulations of tax policies. For example, in areas of Khumbu and Nagarkot, some of the local bodies have been adding their own tax. Along with promoting tourism, the government should regulate these policies as well.

NTB is working closely with India and China. In the next two months, we will be releasing separate marketing strategy for both India and China which can be looked at by the private sector.

We support PATA’s 5 million challenge and we have been working extensively to make policies to meet this target. Tourism is not done in isolation and we believe that if all the associations work together with sincerity and honesty this campaign will succeed.

 


Challenges we must tackle in 2018


Binayak Shah: For 2018, development of infrastructure is the most important factor. When the national budget for the new government is allocated we need to make sure that a certain part goes for the improvement of whatever infrastructure we have.

Secondly, we need to work on the promotion of the country’s tourism in the international market. With the upcoming national budget, we need to make sure that a good amount goes for the promotion of Nepal as a destination. The government needs to make sure that the rules and regulations are properly laid out. If rules and regulations are properly managed, then we won't need to worry about the investments.

Homestays are creating a major problem. We spend millions of dollars establishing a hotel and the homestays charge 20 dollars a day and do not even pay taxes. The government should also work on that because this promotes Nepal as a cheap destination.

According to a report published by Nepal Rastra Bank and NTB, Nepal has 69,350 rooms which can accommodate up to 2.5 million visitors a year. This great capacity remains underutilized as the international airport is cramped. From 7 am to 10 am in the morning 60% of the flights are domestic flights and in order to reduce the traffic, we should consider shifting these domestic flights to nearby areas. The government has already found an area in Kavre for the domestic airport. Now all that’s left to do is to complete this project as soon as possible.

Sunil Shakya: With the plan for 5 million tourists we may generate a lot of revenue. However, we should also consider the environmental impact that comes with it. Before initiating any projects, we need to conduct proper research with environmental organisations like ICIMOD and WWF. Every tourist who visits the Durbar Square or Everest leaves some footprints so we need to be very vigilant in developing sustainable practices as well.

It is unfortunate that Nepal is known as a cheap destination. Climbing Everest costs less than USD 40,000 which is cheaper than a Versace bag and there are hundreds of people lining up for that. Additionally, Everest is full of dead bodies and it is giving us a bad name. I believe that we should close Everest for a year, clean it up and upscale the prices. This is the only way we can add some brand value to it.

Shradha Shrestha: The High-Level Tourism Council is not functioning properly because the government is not very responsive. All tourism-related organisations need to work together and form a national level pressure group. NTB’s new mission is to bring 2 million tourists by 2020 and increase the expenditure to USD 90 per day. To achieve that we have to do a lot of things in 2018.


 


Venue:  Le Sherpa, Lazimpat

Le Sherpa offers high-quality international cuisines with the elegance of fine dining in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

Contact: 9802028777

Website: https://lesherpa.com.np/